“My son went to trials last week and he was completely overlooked, it’s not very fair they hardly gave him a go”.
Too often I’ve heard this in the past thirteen years! So today I want to offer some ideas as to how to deal with this type of disappointment by highlighting some examples of children that have gone on to great things! By creating some questions that will help you to evaluate your role as a sports parent.
I’d like to start by highlighting my own experiences with my parents. Primarily my dad who was a professional footballer in Argentina before a nasty injury wiped out his career. My father’s influence on my love for football cannot be highlighted enough. Here’s the thing I don’t ever remember my dad telling me to go outside and practice, he never had to tell me “what it takes” to make it. All he did was love football and through his love grew ours, my brother and I. Every weekend we watched live games, Sundays was SBS day with Les Murray, my dad bought the latest VCR so we could record and watch games and highlights over and over again. Live games at two AM was compulsory viewing we would get up and set up blankets, pillows, and mattresses for an all-nighter. My mum’s background was also entangled in football as my great Grandfather played for Rosario Central.
I was born in Rosario a city that is synonymous with creating footballers, you only need to look at the current crop of internationals of which many are from Rosario, a surprising number of Argentina’s players are from the area, the largest city in the central province of Santa Fe. The list includes Lionel Messi, Ángel Di María, Javier Mascherano, Maxi Rodriguez and both Ezequiel: Lavezzi and Garay. Apart from players we have, former NT coaches Gerardo Martino, Luis Cesar Menotti and Marcelo Bielsa are also Rosarinos. Current National team coach Sampaoli first played for newels born in Casilda a province of Sant Fe. The equivalent here would be if Adelaide had these numbers of players and coaches born and bred in the region.
My father Jose Carlos Cerro at Newells Old Boys
This cultural background proved to be highly influential in my personal development. It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that my dream of playing for Argentina had transformed to Australia. As we grow we are influenced by our environment and whilst my parents loved Australia you can never really stop loving the place where you grew up. My success in football came down to the passion that was instilled in my psyche by my father’s enthusiasm and through that environment, I developed an unwavering desire to play the game at the highest level. I had no idea what it took to be successful but all I knew was I was hungry to reach the top! My circumstances also played a big part in my development along with the fact that my generation grew up at a time when things were very different to how kids are growing up today. I lived a long way from my high school. We had moved to another suburb and not wanting to change schools I opted to bus it every day. When I got home I did not have my school friends around to spend time with so in order to relieve the boredom, which in today’s generation no longer exists, I spent time practising against a wall.
Today with the knowledge I have acquired, I believe that if I was to do it all again I could have gone much further in my career. I had passion and supportive parents but there was no plan, only hard work and lessons learned through disappointment and failure and there were many. I still think that to a certain extent I was very lucky to have gotten as far as I did.
The lesson from my story is that dreams are created from experiences, opportunities, and influences. For me, my Dad was number one but secondly the game itself and the environment that my dad exposed me to. My bedroom wall was covered with posters and pictures of my favourite teams and players, not realising at the time that I was visualising my success, it was the last thing I saw before I slept and the first thing when I awoke. The players that were my heroes all contributed towards my ambition to succeed. Succeeding was a byproduct of my determination. I knew what I wanted and failure was not going to stop me, not failure, not any individual or anything anyone said or did to me, I was convinced, I knew what I wanted and no one had to teach me that as it was nurtured through my environmental influences!
In today’s society, we as parents always want what is best for our kids. Today, however, through technological changes, the age of innocence is gone and we are subjected to all kinds of fear. I remember growing up we used to sleep with our windows wide open during summer. For my kids, my wife who’s super paranoid about home invasions would make me check and double check that all of our doors and windows were locked and that is still the rule today. It sometimes does my head in because firstly the chances of a home invasion are pretty slim I’m pretty sure that I would have a better chance of choking to death on a falafel! And also because if someone wanted to break in while we were asleep I doubt a locked door would stop them. This fear that something “may” happen to us or our kids is a ludicrous concept which drives our behaviours. This means we quite often wrap our children in bubble wrap and the moment anything difficult happens we are jumping in to save them and this includes the disappointment of not getting selected. Sometimes they may cry in the car on the way home and our hearts melt and out comes the bubble wrap when in reality what should happen is that you should be discussing what happened and work out how to stop it from happening again. When you really start asking questions like did you put the time and effort required to be a standout then most likely the answer is no! As a parent do you understand the odds of your child making it as a footballer, perhaps if you do and your child dreams of becoming a footballer then you may change your mind when it comes to how much training is too much?
Gabriel Mendez and his wife Natalia have basically sacrificed everything to ensure that their children are given every possible chance of succeeding at what they love. When it was obvious that both their kids showed great potential it set off a chain of events that most normal people in society don’t quite understand. I am not 100% privilege to know the full story but from my understanding part of their development included homeschooling and a training regiment from 4-6 hours per day give or take. Then another major decision to move the family overseas in search of a better environment where there were more competition and better quality coaching. The results are a daughter who has already represented Australia and a son who has also been part of the young Socceroos and is currently playing in Spain after almost 3 years of waiting for a clearance. Lots of difficult moments in their development that has built the resilience and work ethic required to compete at the highest level. A life revolving around acquiring dreams.
Lesson learned here is that ultimate success for which there are no guarantees means ultimate sacrifices and a life of dedication towards the dream. There is a specific process needed to become successful. Most people say I would love to be a singer or artist but in reality, they do not love the things they say they would love to be. What they love is the “idea” for if they truly “loved it” they would be practising to become that thing every day, they would understand the amount of effort and sacrifice that is needed. Most people, however, give up at the first hurdle some can’t even lift the first leg towards accomplishing the said goal. The problem for many people is that from an early age they are taught what they can’t do rather than what they can if they are willing to pay the price. Most of society either place things in the too hard basket or are so preoccupied with ensuring that their kids focus primarily on academics only because they do not believe that the odds are sufficiently good enough to take the risk. I’m a firm believer that you can combine both academics and sport or the arts. We are so busy working to pay bills that we forget why we were born and that is to experience life. Many people accept that working 40 hours a week then coming home and watching the idiot box is as good as it gets. Very few do what they love for a living! This is because there is a big difference between wanting something and actually doing what it takes.
Many majorly successful entrepreneurs were high school dropouts these include Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Tom Hanks, Lady Gaga, John Lennon, Abraham Lincoln, Coco Chanel, Jim Carrey and the list goes on and on. but on the other hand, there have been many people who have gone all the way at school and have also been highly successful. School is essential for kids but what we need to observe is that not all kids are alike, some will do well at school others will not, this doesn’t mean the ones that don’t can’t do well in life. For me, there needs to be a balance of both but the world is not black and white so my advice is to work out your children’s capacity and learning abilities. What do they excel in and what do they enjoy doing. Exposure to many things will help them to find their thing from an early age. In many cases the traditional school may not be designed for your child and if it isn’t you need to decide what is best for them but in general it must come from the knowledge a parent acquires, the risks you are willing to take and how you perceive your role and that of your child in society. Conformity is always easier, be aware that if you go against societal norms you will most likely come under fire because most people will not understand your logic, ideology or how you perceive the world which will undoubtedly be different to theirs, this may include your own parents or family!
Example number three. Alan Davidson’s son Jason has played in a World Cup, won the Asian Cup for his country, has lived in six different countries and played in the EPL all before his 23rd birthday. When Jason was six he and his father had a chat about his dreams. He told his dad that he wanted to play for Australia and Manchester United. His father proceeded to tell him that there were a million other kids in the world that also want to play for Manchester United and went about explaining this to him. Needless to say at six he sat back and said dad I got no chance. He explained that if your dad a young boy from Melbourne could do it and play in the EPL and for Australia then there was no reason why he couldn’t do it. From that day on Jason’s pathway was mapped out. Every step of the way was planned and executed in order for him to reach his dream. From that day on a shopping trip to the mall became a training opportunity, he would walk around the mall with a small ball at his feet dribbling between shoppers! Where they lived was planned so that there was a park next to the house where they could keep a close eye on him from the kitchen window. Winning was always a key motto in every lesson, a desire to win leads to competitiveness and hard work. When the time was right they decided that a move abroad would better fulfil his potential, at 14 years of age he trotted off to Japan to further his development. Alan knew that he could not get that sort of environment here. The two years in Japan taught him to be mentally and emotionally resilient, it prepared him for any kind of difficult situation that would come his way. That, in a nutshell, is the short version of the story.
Once again the moral of the story is that a parent needs to know what it takes and then be prepared to sacrifice to ensure that the child gets every opportunity and exposure to realize their dreams. It can be painful heartstrings are put to the test, it’s not easy not having your 14-year-old boy around every day knowing he is without family all alone in a foreign country with a lot of what if moments!
My dad didn’t have a plan of sorts for me but his guidance helped me succeed. For Jason, his dad was more methodical. Success has been a lifetime of planning, execution, timelines, networking, and exposure.
Example number four. My children were both academic and artistic, my eldest Jess aced all of her academic ventures a fierce competitor she finished her HSC with 98.9% and top ten in the state. Tijana managed a healthy 89%. Tijana is a free spirit, a great communicator, and artist. They have both chosen an artistic career through music, however, playing football was part of their development and it helped them to understand the process of success. It took them out of the sheltered world of private schooling and exposed them to many different types of cultures and people. It taught them the sacrifice and hard work needed to become skilled at something. Whilst my kids have become talented musicians who have worked hard at their craft were it not for the tireless efforts of my wife and the 20 years of sacrifice that we the parents facilitated to ensure that our kids got exposure to the best of everything they would not be in the situation they are in now. When my eldest first showed some ability in her craft we sat down and discussed where she wanted to go with it, that started the process. The moment the decision was made my wife got to work 18-20 hours most days networking, planning, studying. Long nights watching industry films, youtube videos, reports and documents on all manner of music industry successes. She read things on various artists Lorde, Taylor Swift e.t.c, She got to know the industry inside out. She was relentless contacting as many important people in the industry as possible to ensure that my daughter got the exposure she needed. Apart from the groundwork, we invested a lot of money into recordings, photo shoots, travel and anything that was needed to get her to the point of improving and ultimately signing a deal with a record label. Eventually, her management team Wonderlick came on board and since then she has signed a deal with Sony Music and has now developed into a full-time professional musician/artist. Now don’t get me wrong I think my daughter is a genius and because of that my wife was able to move mountains, so be aware no matter how hard you work as a parent your children have to work harder to get incredibly good at what they do otherwise you are always going to be limited in your capacity to help them succeed.
With my younger daughter, we are doing things a little differently. We have made many mistakes along the way but the plan and goals were there. My wife had to fight an ego-centred industry to ensure that things happened. Virtually every move we made was disputed by her minders. Today they all want to stake their claim on her, but the reality is without my wife its highly unlikely that my daughter would have the career she has now! She’s now mature enough to be able to handle her own affairs but one thing is certain if she wants or needs help we will always be here for her.
The lesson here is your children may be good at something but they need guidance and an understanding of what to do in order to get to the next level. Things don’t just happen you need to have a plan and a strategy to ensure that goals are met and timelines are fulfilled. You need to be prepared to also sacrifice on behalf of your offspring. If you want your children to get a good start in life you first need to understand the process and the odds. If my wife and I had to do it all again we would no doubt do things very differently but we had to learn from our mistakes. Ultimately there are a million variables that can affect your decisions. Personal circumstances may deter many from deviating from the norm. You need to be very brave to go against the grain but like anything in life without a plan, goals, and timelines success can be left to chance and your chances of success diminish.
I don’t believe that every parent needs to go to the extreme. Provide them with every ounce of support by getting to know in detail what it is that they love. We are then better equipped to help them. Find out how others before you have done it and learn from those before you so that the process becomes an adventure for you and your children. There is no exact formula, it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice, a lot of pain and disappointment. There will be arguments and mistakes. But mistakes are how we learn. What works for one child may not work for another.
Why is it that two children in the same house under the same environment, exposed to similar if not identical circumstance develop in very different ways. It doesn’t matter what, where or who, all children develop into their own versions of themselves. Very rarely will you ever find two children that act and behave in an identical manner? The lenses with which we see the world paints a different picture for each of us. Two people can witness the same event and yet react in two very different ways in terms of their perception. Perhaps we should not try to influence kids. If we do they may not become the best versions of themselves but rather versions of how we see ourselves. We have to cultivate intelligence, free will and an ability for kids to be proactive. This starts at the foundation level. A good farmer will not focus on the plant a good farmer spends all his time cultivating the soil. If the foundation is good the plant needs very little to grow.